Sydney Sweeney Says 'Reality' Role Is 'So Different' from 'Euphoria' and 'White Lotus' Parts (Exclusive)
Reality airs on HBO May 29 and will stream on Max after its initial air date
Sydney Sweeney is stepping into new territory with her latest movie role.
The actress, 25, spoke exclusively with PEOPLE about her new film Reality, which debuts on HBO May 29, and how portraying a real-life person differed from playing fictional characters on her popular series Euphoria and The White Lotus.
In the film she plays Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor who spent more than four years in jail for leaking classified documents to news media. Sweeney says the role "definitely had a different kind of weight to itself."
"I've always approached my characters as living, breathing human beings that live on a screen, and I build their life from the day they're born to the first page of the script," she adds.
"I've always had such creative freedom with that, where I get to truly just create their entire life and their memories and their experiences, and it's really fun," Sweeney continues. "But Reality is a real person who already has all of those memories and those experiences and those relationships that I wanted to learn and tap into and try and get all of that information that I possibly could, so that I could then put it into the same process that I have, but with the groundwork of a real person and then bring it to the screen."
"Reality is such a different experience altogether, that I don't know if I can even equate the differences, because the TV world is very different from the movie world, and Reality is just so different from Cassie or Olivia," she adds, referring to her Euphoria and White Lotus characters, respectively. "Just the whole process, everything is completely different."
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Related:Sydney Sweeney Is Interrogated by FBI Agents in Teaser Trailer for New HBO Movie Reality
In real life, Winner was a contractor at Pluribus International Corp. who worked with the NSA. She was charged with espionage in 2018 after authorities alleged she accessed a classified memo concerning Russian government efforts to infiltrate U.S. voting systems before the 2016 presidential election and mailed it to The Intercept.
Winner, an Air Force veteran, pleaded guilty to the charges and served four years in prison. Her sentence is the longest ever served by a civilian accused of leaking information to the media.
Reality follows Winner's encounters with FBI agents at her home on June 3, 2017, as they "question her suspected role in the mishandling of classified information," according to an official logline from HBO. "Based on true events, the film's dialogue is directly from the transcript of their tense and transfixing conversation," the logline continues.
In addition to Sweeney, Reality also stars Josh Hamilton (Eighth Grade, Kicking and Screaming) and Marchánt Davis (A Journal for Jordan). The film, from Tina Satter in her directorial debut, is written by Satter and James Paul Davis, based on her 2019 play Is This a Room.
RELATED VIDEO: Sydney Sweeney's Long Journey (20-Hour Drives for Auditions!) to Success
Speaking with PEOPLE, Satter says she knew Sweeney "was good" before she landed the part of Winner, explaining, "I'd seen some stuff she had done."
Highlighting the star's "incredible intelligence," the filmmaker said, "Once you had that camera on her, it was really, really special and astounding, and it made it a really cool thing for me too, to be learning with and from this actor as we were finding this role together, which is a deeply personal closeup role."
"We'd had this incredibly good Zoom before we started working on this together, which made me know she was this really smart person who really understood the role and was a pleasure to talk to," Satter continues.
She adds, "But being in the trenches with someone that smart and quick and able to detonate it was just really amazing for me — and something I was in awe of."
Reality debuts on HBO May 29 at 10 p.m. ET and will be available to stream on Max following its initial airdate.
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